Sunday, 30 September 2018

The Owls of Bath

I wrote earlier this month, about hunting for Minerva's Owls in Bath. The Art Trail ended on 10th September, but this weekend all of the owls were on display together, at the Bath Recreation ground, before being auctioned, for charity, in a couple of weeks time (except for the smaller owls (owlets) created with local schools, which will mostly be returning to  the schools involved)

There were originally 82 owls, with 2 extra ones added for the weekend.

Vincent Van Owl
Some of the owls were influenced by famous artists and artworks  (there was a Frida Owlo, as well as the Van Gogh / Starry Night owl), and one named 'Magritte, ceci n'est pas un owl',as well as Inkie Hoots , created by 'Inkie' , a famous local graffiti artist.

Some were inspired by local heroes, such as 'Patch', remembering the late Harry Patch, (the last surviving combat soldier of WW1, who was born just outside Bath, and died in Wells.) The owl was decorated by children from Combe Down primary school, which Harry Patch attended.

 There was also a HershOwl, recalling William and Caroline Hershel, musicians and astronomers, who lived in Bath in the late 18th C.

Bath's Roman heritage was also represented. I found Octavian, with his mosaic  plumage, particularly appealing,  although there were a few others which also had some mosaic elements, and of course Brian, the Monty Python inspired owl ('grafitti'd' with "Romani ite domum" (Romans go home) was there. 

There were a number of Space related owls. Cosmos made me smile, but there was also Seemore, who had telescopes in his eyes and constellations painted on his body, and Cosmic Allen, which had a starscape across his plumage. 

Nor was Seemore the only interactive owl - there was another, Bird of Play, which at first glance seemed a bit dull, being plain black, but who featured a teleidoscope in one eye..

As a booklover, J.K Owling appealed to me a lot, and there were others with literary inspiration - Glimfeather, as well as being named after Lewis's Narnian Owl, has quotes and illustrations from various children's books on his plumage,  and the Festivowl celebrates the Bath Kids Literature Festival.

It is impossible to pick just one favourite owl,. I still really like the Sea Owl, which I 'found' on my original hunt, as well as at the weekend gathering.

Another lovely one was Tyrell, apparently intended as a replicant owl inspired by  'Blade Runner'
While I didn't think it was the most attractive, I also very much enjoyed the wealth of detail on Isambird Kingdom Brunowl...

Actually, I tell a lie. I did have a favourite. Her name is Pippa, and she was much smaller, more feathery and more mobile than the rest!

(She is a Little Owl, and was there along with a Tawny Owl and an Eagle Owl, and their handlers, a little way from the bustle and noise of the main event.)

I have a Flickr set, here, of all of the owls, and  the the Minerva's Owls website, which is at  has full detail of all the artists and owls. 

Monday, 24 September 2018

The Height of the Storm

I booked to see The Height of the Storm because how often do you get to see Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce on stage, still less get to see them together.?

The play is interesting, and moving, initially, we see a daughter, returning home and trying to help her father, coming to terms with the loss of his wife, her mother . . . or do we?  

AndrĂ© and Madeleine have been a couple for 5 years, and have two adult daughters, but what is the loss they are dealing with? The sands are shifting underfoot, and the play explores the issues of grief, and loss, and dementia without ever naming any of them. 

It is very, very well done.(And one gets to hear Eileen Atkins say 'Fuck' , which carries it's  own joy!)

It's strange, but thought provoking, and despite dealing with loss and grief has its entertaining moments!

The play is in Bath before it opens in the West End. It's well worth seeing if you have the chance (and it's short  -about 90 minutes with no interval) 

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Macbeth again

I saw the RSC's production of Macbeth with friends,  in March this year, and , before seeing it, had also booked a second ticket, to see it later in the run (we saw it very early on - I think still in previews.

Other than the company, I enjoyed it more the second time around, partly as my seat was in the central section of the stalls, so I could actually see the whole of the performance, including those parts behind a glass screen at the back of the stage, which were invisible from our seats the first time round! 

The production seems to have settled down, some of the rough edges which were there the first time have gone, and the cast seemed more confident. I think they had made one or two changes, particularly at the end, when MacBeth and MacDuff fight. (MacDuff, Edward Bennett, remains excellent. His grief, on learning of his family's murders, and his change from civil servant to avenging warrior remains a high point of the production).

I still feel that the projected quotes  / explanations were unnecessary and somewhat distracting.

I did enjoy the performances, and did feel it was better this tie round than the first time!

The production is over, now, at the RSC, but is at the Barbican in London from 15th October until  18th January. And I'd say that it is interesting enough to be worth seeing.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Art Matters - Chris Riddell and Neil Gaiman

Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of both Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell, so I was excited to see that they had a joint event in London, celebrating the launch of their new book, 'Art Matters', and naturally could not resist the opportunity, even though it was (most inconsiderately in my view) on a Wednesday evening, so I was for some time on tenterhooks wondering whether I would be able to wrestle my work schedule in order to be able to go, but happily I could, and so Wednesday afternoon found me on train to London, and then in a very long, very hot (but polite and friendly) queue, with a good friend.

And after some queuing,and collecting our pre-signed copies of the new book, we found ourselves in the auditorium. It's a former cinema, and still has some lovely panels on the ceiling.

Chris Riddell was on stage as we came in, sharpening his pencils and drawing sketches. (As Neil commented" There was a moment of panic, about 20 minutes ago, up in the Green Room  when we looked around and went, ' where's Chris?' . We thought we'd lost you" )

Then Neil read the 'Art Matters' speech from the book (after pointing out that it was a slightly new version, as it is the elements of the original speech which Chris liked and chose to illustrate), At the tart, this was accompainied by a running commentary from Neil's son Ash, before his mother took him backstage again. Which was a shame, his enthusiastic 'Dadda!' was lovely to hear!  After which Neil ad Chris  both answered questions put by host Lauren Laverne.

Neil spoke briefly about his current involvement as a show runner for the 'Good Omens' TV show ("Stuff like budget meetings, I was not put on this earth for fucking budget meetings") and about writing the sequel to 'Neverwhere'  100 pages in, but taking time due to the demands of being a show runner)

Towards the end of the evening, Antonia Byatt, Director of English Pen spoke a little about the organisation and it's aims, and read from a recent letter from writer Ahmet Altan ,  who who has been imprisoned in Turkey for expressing unpopular views.

There was also an auction in support of EnglishPen, of one of the original artworks for the book, (which auctioneer Lauren Laverne pointed out, included DNA samples from Neil and Chris from where they had handled it, so the winner would be able to clone their own Neil or Chris!)
Neil holding the artwork to be auctioned

(and photographer Tom Bowles took the most perfect picture of it, which you can see  here)

There was then some time for a few questions from the audience, for which Chris drew replies, as well as giving verbals replies. 

I had to leave just before the end, in order to catch my train home, but the entire evening was videoed and is up on YouTube for all to enjoy. And of course the book is available to buy all over the place. If you don't already have a copy, I urge you to get one. 

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Hunting for Minerva's Owls

This summer, Bath has been hosting an arts trail of Owls, to follow on from the previous pigs, and lions.

This year, they were owls, (for Minerva, given Bath's Roman history)
  There were, apparently, 82 of them altogether, but I only had time to find a selection, about 20 of them (and as I did most of my looking on Saturday, which was supposed to be the last but one day, it seemed they have already removed some of them, which I can't help but feel is cheating!)

Each owl was sponsored by a different local business, and decorated by a different artist or school. Some, like Speculo  and Spokes (above) were beautiful. (Speculo was sponsored by a glass shop, and has separate, glass feathers on it's wings and back)

Others, like Brian, were amusing! (although I think they missed a trick by putting him in Queen Square, and not by the Roman Baths )

Forrest Stump
Some had smaller owls upon them.

The Owl and the Pussycat
After this weekend, I gather they are all collected and cleaned up, before being auctioned for charity.

They are really rather nice !
I have a Flickr album here with all of the ones I found.